During my trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos, I traveled by air, land and water to appreciate the natural sights that the country had to offer.  

On our first day in Quito, we took the Teleférico gondola lift up to Pichincha Volcano, which was the highest elevation we would reach during our trip. At over 12,000 feet above sea level, I was feeling the effects of altitude sickness as we climbed to the lookout. It was more difficult to breathe at the high elevation and I had to take a lot of breaks while walking. Despite the added challenge, I was able to pace myself and enjoy the walk, even snapping a picture with some llamas along the way! 

Our journey to San Cristobal Island in the Galápagos involved a plane ride with a short layover in the port city of Guayaquil. As we broke through the clouds on our descent to the islands, I could see Kicker Rock sticking out of the perfectly blue Pacific Ocean. We would visit the famous rock the next day by boat for snorkeling, where we observed sea turtles and a hammerhead shark swimming in the deep blue below. There was a learning curve to snorkeling and I felt like I was thrown into the deep end, literally. After many minutes of hanging onto the life preserver, I eventually got my bearings and enjoyed the experience. By our third snorkeling excursion, I felt much more comfortable with it, and I would definitely snorkel again given the chance. 

The island hop from San Cristobal to Isabela involved riding in a small nine-passenger plane between the islands. It was a challenge to condense my belongings to a single 25 lb bag, but also felt freeing to not have to lug a massive suitcase around. After the 45-minute flight, we landed in Isabela, which would turn out to be my favorite island I visited during the trip. We shuttled around the island in a vehicle called a chiva, which is like an open-air bus. I loved being able to feel the breeze as I took in the island countryside. 

Part of what endeared me to Isabela was learning about the island’s natural history during our hike up Sierra Negra. Sierra Negra is an active shield volcano that last erupted in 2005. While looking out over the expansive caldera, it was wild to think that just a few kilometers beneath us was magma. We had a tasty lunch over the caldera before the rain chased us back downhill to the chiva. Having a raincoat on-hand was a must in the Galapagos as we visited near the end of the wet season.  

During our second day in Isabela, we took a boat out to Los Tuneles at Cabo Rosa. This tour was the most treacherous hike we took during the trip as we had to be careful not to slip on the sharp lava rocks that comprised the stunning geologic tunnel formations. Cabo Rosa was also my favorite snorkeling location that we visited. We saw huge sea turtles, parrotfish, a sea slug and even a sea snake in the shallow waters.  

Since I didn’t get seasick during the bumpy journey to Cabo Rosa, I thought my stomach would be fine after the long ferry ride to Santa Cruz the following morning. I was wrong. The ferry ride was possibly the least favorite mode of transportation among those in my group as it was over two hours of being thrown up and down as the boat pushed through the waves. I tried to nap through it but kept getting sprayed with water — my raincoat once again proving useful. I was happy to plant my legs back on dry land once we reached Santa Cruz, but my stomach was uneasy in the hours afterward. I would say a huge part of this trip was learning to listen to my body during and after new experiences to make sure I was okay and able to continue. It’s important to be adventurous, but sometimes equally important to take a break when your body needs it.  

Since returning from my adventure to Ecuador and the Galapagos, I have been asking myself if I enjoyed the experience enough. However, the more I ask myself, the more I take issue with the question. I definitely enjoyed the trip, but there were also times in the two weeks when things could have been easier, less stressful, or overall could have gone better. In hindsight, I think overcoming and adapting to unfamiliar challenges was a valuable part of the experience. It helped me learn more about my limits and where I may need more help in the future. Would I have gained the same wisdom if nothing had gone wrong? Maybe not. I cherish the breadth of experiences I had during my time in Ecuador and would do it again in a heartbeat.